Monday, 4 August 2014

Classics: Thoughts on Seniors

Classics for seniors is always weird. Many of the top gymnasts don't bother with the AA, whereas others go all out to impress. In this case, the top 2 both competed all-around...but so few others did! Too many injuries and scratching marred this competition big-time.

Simone Biles (as I write this...new Bruin!) and her return to competition for the first time since Antwerp was the big excitement and draw. Her ask.fm previously provided the information that she wouldn't be doing the Cheng this year and that her bars are currently downgraded. Understandable, given her shoulder issues. What I was hoping for was strong floor, usual great Amanar, and improvement on beam with the inclusion of her new BHS-LOSO-LOSO.

But, her floor..absolutely blew me away. I've watched it at least 10 times by now and it still has my eyes out on stalks. Is 15.8 crazy? Yes, but so is that floor. She legitimately leaves barely anything to deduct. I can't believe her landings. Not just how controlled they were, but how upright, she's had issues before with both DLO variations. As far as artistry goes, the music suits her and the choreography too. It's much more fluid and a much better effort than her previous routine. The smile and charisma still coming off in waves...I live for her huge grin after slamming her passes. It may not be the greatest demonstration of artistic gymnastics we have yet seen, or your favourite, but it is THE strongest floor routine I have ever seen, ever. And you won't even get me to admit it was more in the 15.4 range.

Simone. Copyright - John Cheng

Amanar was as strong as usual, I'd like to see her stick that this year. The Lopez was strong in the air but her block looked a bit troublesome, as if she did not get her hands down correctly. It is testament to her power that the only issue otherwise seen was the slightly low landing, she was fully able to get the vault around. She'll be looking for a much sharper version of that at Nationals.  I expected slightly dodgy bars and she had an issue at the start right enough, but she picked up and it ended up being a decent routine with another great landing. Beam could have been stronger too, she had a sizeable wobble and a missed connection but good lord, her BHS-LOSO-LOSO is so beautiful, which is so unexpected from a tiny powerhouse.

All in all, Simone kicked ass and took names. A truly dominating performance which put to rest any immediate concerns over her wellbeing. I expect her to be even stronger again at Nationals. At this point, there is a strong argument that she is the greatest gymnast ever. Wow.

It was nice to see Kyla back after uncharacteristic weaker performances from her earlier this year. The whip-double arabian was nice, but as she found it hard to get the stag from it cleanly in training, didn't manage in competition, and she had to drop the full-in...I don't see it as a permanent fixture. Seriously strong landings from her and consistently great performances. I'd like to see her truly be able to challenge Simone and upgrade her beam and bars significantly but it seems like that's never going to happen, so I'll stay content watching her refreshingly steady and clean work. She's going nowhere from the AA this year anyway, but this position is a little in jeopardy when Bailie Key arrives on the scene.

It was disappointing to see Kyla do a low difficulty bars routine, I'd really hope she can bring it back to 6.4 in time for Nanning. It won't matter for the team that much, but it certainly will for her chances of repeating a medal in bars finals.

I was really looking forward to seeing strong, assured 'pick-me-or-you'll-regret-it' routines from Brenna Dowell. Alas. She threw an extremely ambitious bars routine but had major problems with each high-low transition and ended up jumping down instead of dismounting. A very wise decision given that she apparently is carrying an ankle injury, and may have tweaked it during the routine, or just lacked the energy after dealing and recovering from two big errors. Nevertheless, this is a disaster for her chances this year unless she is totally fine by Nationals. Hopefully they'll have a plan for her bars at least, that she'll do lesser difficulty if the full routine isn't consistent in podium training. Her vault could be valuable for them this year, but it sounds like a bad idea with a foot injury. Sad to see her like this, especially since she deferred Oklahoma for a shot at this worlds team.

Rachel Gowey was most interesting. Crashed her amanar, but really nice floor and beam work. Bars are not really happening for me. Her speed and block on vault were totally off, perhaps just nerves, as she has been landing them fairly well otherwise. I'd like to see her work on it rather than lose it, if she can land it decently..her long lean frame isn't typically suited however. As for floor, a wild 3.5 landing (fully rotated though!) brought her score down, as did a frankly bad turn combination which likely was not credited at all. I live for her triple full though. She's an odd combination, gorgeous lines and dance, some power moves despite long, frail frame, but...dodgy leaps. I'd like to see her on the team for her beam alone, but she certainly has more up her sleeve to offer a team than that, she just needs to work on it.

Madison Kocian conformed the wisdom of fan's pre-selection of her for worlds with another strong bar routine, earning her 15.4. There's a healthy number of minor form issues with it, legs flickering apart being my bugbear. Nevertheless, they were very strong. So...beam? A fall, and another ankle tweak. Very depressing, but maybe just a precautionary measure and she'll come back strong for Nationals at least on her strong events. However, she's perpetually injured so that's not really encouraging.

BUT...a bars/beam specialist has emerged from nowhere! Ashton Locklear posted a phenomenal 15.7 for her bars, and followed that up with a very decent 14.55 on beam. Hers is a name I've been seeing in lists of camp attendees, but no further information. A bolt from the blue for almost everyone I would say. I love her bars composition, piked inbars, BIG Jaeger, very Russian combinations. She had gorgeous long lines also. But, the form errors were not really taken into account...flexed feet on all of the inbars and on other occasions, legs coming apart on top of the bar and in transitions, messy Pak and sloppy bail. In light of that, the score was several tenths too high. It's a fabulous routine but there's lots of little things wrong, I'd love to see her work on them.

Ashton. Copyright - John Cheng

Her beam had gorgeous lines but with those lines..form errors stand out a mile! Bent knees in her LOSO, dodgy back leg on some of her leaps. Her leaps are weird...some were really good, some quite bad. Don't get me wrong, I'm really impressed with her, just not blown away by her form. As a complete and utter new girl, she has loads of time to work on the small things. In the meantime, she needs to stay consistent as she could easily end up on this team, especially if Madison can't come back in time.

Mykayla Skinner had a lot to prove, and unfortunately it didn't really work out. The confirmed loss of Mckayla Maroney for this season and another injury for the ever-plagued Lexie Priessman remain massive points for her inclusion, as does the uncertain status of Brenna Dowell, but her coaches need to get.it.together. She has not been injured as far as we aware so there was no excuse for her somewhat poor conditioning. But, no matter what shape she's in, that floor routine is officially too much for her and they need to fix it. Simone does her incredible difficulty with ease, but halfway through and Mykayla struggles, with another fall borne from pure exhaustion. It's not acceptable to still have the wrong skill selection for her. It's great to see an underdog do well, not so great when their coach isn't making the best decisions for them. Vault, well even though the one-handed Cheng block works for her, I'd still prefer the standard approach and I thought it was fair her execution suffered as a result. Kyla should not be beating her score on that vault, it would be nice if that served as a wake-up call of sorts.

I AM very impressed with her beam, that full in combination is just so glorious. One of the best ever done surely. She has improved overall but there's a long path to go.

Nica Hults just did bars, and Maddie Desch just bars and beam. Both have faded considerably which is sad to see. Nica in particular was an option for worlds with her steady beam and bars, but she doesn't seem to be in contention anymore. Amelia Hundley had a good outing, with really nice floor work in particular, but definitely isn't what she could be...throwing an FTY isn't a good sign. She has been injured and more than likely will do better in time, but I don't see her fitting into the worlds team regardless.

Maggie Nichols, on the other hand, had a very good day, placing third in the AA! She's very reminiscent of Aly Raisman and could fulfil the exact same role...the steady, solid powerful one who goes up early in the rotation in team finals. She can fill in anywhere, even her bars are half decent.

Overall, aside from the top 2 and Ashton Locklear, this was a messy, rough competition with too many injuries, absences, and gymnasts scratching events. We've definitely come to expect roughness from Classics but I feel like we should at least be seeing more gymnasts, and more doing more events. It speaks volumes of the rigours of the code when even the US are struggling with it. I say struggling in full knowledge of the depth they have and their ability to cope with knockbacks, a luxury other countries don't have, even the rest of the top 4. Hopefully we will see more faces, and stronger performances at Nationals.

The Good

Bars Some really nice routines on display

Comebacks Simone Biles back for the first time since worlds, and in explosive fashion

Improved artistry Kyla and Simone both sold their routines, old and new respectively, better than ever

The Bad

Absences, injuries, scratching Worrying


Best

Floor Simone
Beam Kyla
Bars Ashton
Vault Simone

Favourite

Vault Simone
Bars Madison
Beam Rachel
Floor Simone

Leotards

Of our medallists, I loved Simone's. I did think the side panels looked vaguely like windows into her organs, which is a weird thing to say. Still, a great leotard, colours wise and style wise. Kyla's had potential but ended up being dull...the lighter purple colour needed to be broken up more. Maggie's was quite cookie-cutter USA but still nice.

Simone. Copyright - John Cheng

I am a sucker for white, and for white trim against black mesh. Lovely use of pink. Ticks so many boxes even if I think we're looking at her lungs.


Madison Desch. Copyright - John Cheng
More glorious GAGE blue ombre with the rose again, stunning.



Honourable mentions: Ashton Locklear, WOGA and CGA as mentioned in the juniors post

Dishourable mentions: Again, a lack of scope here. I didn't like the mesh on Mykayla Skinner's gorgeous shade of blue leotard, and it ruined it for me.


How many times have you watched Simone's floor? (Embedded below for convenience). Who is on your team now - has Ashton blasted her way in? Can Kyla get any taller?





20 comments:

  1. I was a bit hesitant to say that before, but now I actually think Simone is the best gymnast ever. I now consider her a better tumbler than Daiane dos Santos and her gymnastics keeps making me think what would have been of Daiane had she started gymnastics eralier. She can also challenge McKayla on Vault, and Mckayla is for sure top 3 ever best vaulter, Her beam is fenomenal and her bars are nice, seriously she's just so fantastic.

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    1. I know right?? :D Very true about Daiane..Simone has surpassed her I think and also yesss would love to have seen Daiane had she started a few years earlier in the sport.

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  2. Maddie, Amelia, and Nica should prepare for NCAA. Especially Maddie who has not had any upgrades whatsoever since turning senior. Is Al fong putting all his hopes in Brenna to make the world and Olympic teams.?I know she had an injury last year but she is no where near what she was as a junior.

    Amelia looked a little gassed imo and not her upbeat self.

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    1. Yeah, sad but true. At this stage it doesn't look like elite has much left for them. Likewise Sarah Finnegan who recently changed gym and Sabrina Vega.

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    2. Sarah Finnegan was on my worlds team at the beginning of this year. I hope she is successful in NCAA. I hope whichever team gets her continues to use her beautiful turns.

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  3. Simone was awesome. IS awesome. Incredible floor, loved her genuine ear to ear smiles throughout it. And every year people call for Kyla to upgrade but meh, if she's not out for gold and is trying to preserve herself for college, every year her strategy looks smarter and smarter. Poor Lexie and Brenna, I hoped that this would be their year... by next year they will be eclipsed by the new juniors.

    Gowey's not bad. She's interesting. It's not that her vault is particularly great but she's obviously a super quick and clean twister so that helps. What glorious form on her twists.. that triple on floor was gorgeous. I think she's definitely in the running, she's improved from something like a 52 or so last year to a 56 with a fall this year. Not AA material yet but could be useful in a team situation, and of course, nice beam. It's a bit hard to call the senior team especially without having seen the TD girls, though I would rather take Nichols over Ernst as she's much less headcasey even if she has less difficulty. Nichols also seems pretty unbreakable, a la Aly. Hugely valuable in a Marta death camp situation.

    Strange but US is actually not as insanely strong on vault as they've been for awhile. Yes they're still ahead of the rest of the world, but they can only count one definite solid Amanar with Simone. Several dodgy options with Gowey, Brenna and Mykyla's Cheng. Losing Mckayla and Ebee is actually quite a big hit. Ebee would've been a great option for this team, she could've complemented Gowey quite well even if Gowey just did beam only for Worlds.

    On the whole the juniors looked a lot better than the seniors, and this was without Laurie and Bailie...

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    1. It's almost comical that US only have one confirmed amanar, one maybe and one dodgy Cheng that can be outscored by a DTY. If Russia had healthy gymnasts I'd nearly give them a shot at challenging. Alas.

      Yeah I don't blame Kyla for preserving herself at this stage. It's just hard to get excited watching her compete really.

      I'm sooooo curious to see how Gowey does at Nationals. She and Maggie have to stay consistent but even if not, Marta doesn't have many other options up her sleeve for once.

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  4. I know Classics are usually a splat fest, but this was unexpected. Does this worry you about Nationals, Catherine?

    I hope Madison fully recovers because she is incredibly valuable on bars. Do you think this competition will affect Brenna's and Mykayla's performances at Nationals? In my opinion, Brenna either needs to downgrade her bar routine, adjust it so her difficulty stays the same while lowering the risk, or learn how to hit her current bar routine. I feel the same way about Skinner's floor because I highly doubt Marta will put someone on the team just for vault.

    On a positive note, I'm really happy for Maggie Nichols. It's good for any country to have an "Aly Raisman" on their team. Simone's floor was beyond amazing! My jaws dropped when she stuck her DLO Half. Her choreography was actually really nice. All in all, I was really impressed with her (and I'm not even that big a fan of her gymnastics). Kyla has disappointed me with her lack of upgrades, but she will be on the team nevertheless...

    By the way, has Maroney's absence affected your predicted World's team for the US? Also, when are Nationals????

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    1. Nationals are later this month. I'm not too pushed as Classics is usually meh as regards consistency whereas Nationals tends not to be. With the exception of 2011 Nationals which was god awful..but Tokyo was fine in the end.

      If Madison, Brenna and Lexie are out I'd be a little concerned..in that team then (Biles, Ross, Skinner, Gowey, Locklear, Nichols) there isn't that much experience between them besides Kyla and Simone.

      Skinner replaces Maroney for me. She needs to step up and do better at Nationals but there's not really anyone else who can take that place.

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    2. Nichols has two Europe tours (Jeselo, Chemintz 2013 and Jeselo 2014) and the Tokyo World Cup. I think she's a great add for this team because she is always consistent, has the fourth best hit rate in international competition after Price. She's super steady, like Raisman, but without the same level of difficulty.

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  5. You're writing for gymternet too? Wang Yan is a junior? I thought she was a senior and recently dismissed. Maybe that was Weng Wei?

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    1. Yes, Wang Wei is the senior who left the National Team earlier this year and then retired in May. Wang Yan is the very promising junior who will represent China at the Youth Olympics this month.

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  6. Who do u think would be on US WAG team?

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  7. I think that Biles and Ross are locks for sure.I also believe that if Gowey stays consistent she's on the team. Now Skinner did herself no favors at Classics but the US needs another floor girl and there aren't many available. If she can get consistent she's going to worlds, plus she has her vaults. Now the next spot is for a bars/ beam girl so its either Kocian or Locklear depending on Nationals and worlds camp. The last spot will come down to an all around filler so either Nichols or Ernst. I cant say which since I haven't seen Ernst yet. So team finals will look like this . . .

    VT Ross/ Gowey, Skinner, Biles
    UB Biles/Nichols/Ernst, Ross, Kocian/Locklear
    BB Gowey, Ross, Biles
    FX Ross, Skinner, Biles

    *I have alternatives for Simone on bars in case they decide to rest her shoulder. Also I don't think Kyla's floor spot is definite but she was second best at Classics. However, this is still the best USA team I believe with the girls we have.
    Thoughts anyone?

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    1. I agree, the team can only be made up of so many athletes. Biles, Ross and Gowey are probably all locks at this point - Biles and Ross can be used on any piece and Gowey is good for anything except UB. She does have a top 3 VT and BB.

      Taking most gymnasts is probably enough to win Worlds this year. I expect a team will consist of the gymnasts below.
      TF: VT/FX: Skinner - no other VT or FX worker. It's a shame Priessman and Maroney are out.
      Q: AA, TF: UB/BB/FX: Nichols VS Ernst VS Baumann VS Kocian. Hopefully this gymnast can offer at least one piece in TF. FX is probably the easiest place to improve upon scores of Gowey/Ross or Skinner if she crashes. I'm looking forward to seeing Nichols, Ernst and Baumann's FX at Nationals. BB would be a bonus, but I don't think anyone can outscore the top 3.
      TF: UB: Kocian VS Locklear VS Dowell. Hoping it's Dowell and she has the Tweddle routine figured out. BB would be a bonus piece.

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  8. Part 1/2
    Before I begin, let me tell you how much I enjoy reading every single blog that you publish. Anyway, immediately after the 2012 Olympic games, there has been a lot of hype about the shear force the US team had in its hand, which underlines the insurmountable supremacy of the US team during this quadrennial. A lot have been expecting that Kyla Ross will anchor the team to glory whilst the juniors gradually develop to world-class gymnasts. The prospects of Ohashi, Price, Priessman & Finnegan were so positive and they have been predicted by some to become the back bones up until the next Olympics in addition to Ross, who hasn't stopped training since London. However, things aren’t looking as bright as expected and might the US spiral down to the ground because of the fierce competition to initially impress Marta?

    The depth of the team was so unbelievable that they could throw two different teams that could easily vie for Gold-Silver. Perhaps this depth has been the major cause of the multiple injuries and unprecedented retirements within the team-well, this is just my theory. I guess that girls have been pushing themselves too much that their bodies started to yield at the wrong time. The skills that they are training for are absolutely impressive but carry a lot of risks. For example, some girls are working towards a difficulty score ranging from 6.5 to 6.9 on floor and that is mostly built up from tumbling passes. So that must take a lot of toll on their bodies. I am not even sure whether longevity is part of their ethos.

    It is so detrimental to hear about how ill-plagued the US has become recently and thus, gradually weakening their supremacy in this sport. For the first time, I am starting to cast some doubts whether US will win the team Gold at Nanning. For now, I agree to what most people profess that only Simone and Kyla are definite members of the World Championship squad and the rest… I'll consider after watching the P&G's. Hopefully what happened to Biles after the 2013 Classics will be reflected onto Gowey's performance for the rest of this season. I really admire Skinners attitude but I think her coach should shuffle her tumbling passes, it seems that Skinner doesn't have the stamina to execute the set of acrobatic series she is ought to perform. To be honest, I still don't know whom to pick aside from Kyla and Simone at this present situation. Due to injuries, it doesn’t seem like this year’s team is as deep as the one in 2012.

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  9. Part 2/2
    The impending return of some of the fierce five members is an event the gymnastics community is longing to witness. I am really looking forward to seeing Alexandra again more than Gabrielle. Hopefully neither of them will face-plant themselves during the 2016 Olympic trials. It is so pleasing to hear that they are able to do some of their old skills but not yet able to connect them, and I believe that, that is perfectly fine at this stage. We all know from the training videos released by the USA gymnastics, that Nastia could perform her skills separately in 2012 even her dismount but struggled to connect them all in competitions. Hopefully, roughly 3 years of training without rushing can enable them to perform at their peak again. In fact, I am not putting so much hope on Wieber as I could just imagine her focusing on her studies at UCLA and with NCAA. Mckayla’s attitude and tenacity is what I admire the most from her. She means what she says and she always performs when she is healthy. I am quite happy that she got her injury this season and her doctors are able to diagnose it early, hence she has plenty of time under her belt to recover from it and have a shot for the 2016 team. Gabrielle’s decision on changing gyms is a bit surprising. It was Chow’s guidance that led her to glory but will her new coach do the same favour? Another theory of mine as to why she left Chow is that she might not be able to get the same attention as she once did, now that there are upcoming elites that Chow is brewing for the next two years. Well, Kyla is Kyla, always consistent and reliable, and whenever someone gets injured she is always a good back up.

    Elizabeth’s presence is missed; her sudden retirement from the elite might have surprised the entire gymnastics community and vastly reduced the prospects of the team winning the gold medal this year at Nanning. Her decision is an actual slap on the face to the US committee and especially to Marta and it is commendable! I reckon that she has a deeper reason why she chose Stanford over Worlds other than education. She may no longer be part of the international-elite gymnastics society but she will be part of an internationally acclaimed institution, which makes her part of a different elite society on its own right. It is still a win-win situation for her at the end of the day.

    I still believe that the USA is currently the best gymnastics team in the world but its internal battle is destroying itself. Gymnasts are battered to a series of injuries and hence gymnast fall one by one like dominos until all what is left are the inexperienced girls. The US national team reminds of Rafael Nadal, an explosive and fun to watch tennis player but is always prone to injuries. Only time will tell whether USA will implode or excel later this season and the upcoming 2 years.




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    1. I agree that it's a shame that so many gymnasts are injured or retiring from the U.S. team, but I don't think I would go so far as to say they will "implode". If you look at USA's history, their teams from the beginning to the end of the quads were always completely different, but that never stopped them from succeeding. For example, the 2011 Worlds team was completely different from the one in 2010 save for Sacramone, who later got injured and couldn't compete, but that didn't stop them from winning gold. But I do agree that gymnasts should be properly paced. That's one area team USA struggles with.

      Also, as far as Nanning goes, it's only mid-quad so teams are not at their best in general. I still think the US will win the team gold because not only are they consistent, they have the most difficulty. Not only that, but Romania, Russia, and China are severely lacking in depth and have no way of challenging.

      Also, as far

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  10. I hear the YouTube Channel Rien say U.S is lacking on floor but her team is Biles, Ross, Skinner, Kocian, Locklear, and Gowey first I don't see the seriously lacking on floor Biles is world class and Mykayla can be too. The other spot comes between Kyla or Rachel and this could be a toss up. Kyla will most likely execute and give a good number but if gowey can give a nice routine I see her maybe beating Kyla on floor. For Locklear and I think that's how you spell her name I think she's on the radar but not on the team I don't think all this should be based on one routine even though will be one of the must difficult u.s Can do her execution wasnt quite there yet and probably would get a low to mid 14 internationally if I'm not mistaking.

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    1. Hi Bryce, you're right - it all can't be based on one routine or even D scores, but that shouldn't stop the fun of the discussion. I enjoy Rien's montages and the heated but mostly civil discussions on her channel for that reason.

      I think you're right here by the way, it's not as if any top team (Canada, GB, Russia, China, Romania, USA) can put together three amazing FX routines anyway. Relative to this field, as well as all other teams competing, the US team is going to score high on floor even if they were to use Biles, Ross and Gowey.

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